Northern Ireland

Londonderry-born writer wins 2010 Costa Novel Award

Londonderry-born bestselling author Maggie O'Farrell has won a prestigious literary prize for her fifth novel.

The Hand That First Held Mine, has been awarded the 2010 Costa Novel Award.

The Costa Book Awards are given to enjoyable, well-written books by authors based in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

Maggie O'Farrell was born in Northern Ireland in 1972, and grew up in Wales and Scotland.

She now lives in Edinburgh with her partner and their two children.

The manuscript for the book was due to be submitted just before the birth of her daughter Iris but the bestselling author said she had to delay publication because she "couldn't even remember the word for a teapot".

The Hand That First Held Mine weaves together the stories of two women who, separated by 50 years, grapple with love and motherhood.

Nobel Laureate

Ms O'Farrell's first novel, After You'd Gone, was widely praised and garnered a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award.

The Distance Between Us, her third book, won the society's Somerset Maugham Award in 2005.

She is not Derry's first link to the Costa Awards, which were known as the Whitbread Book Awards until 2005.

Jennifer Johnston, who has long made the city her home, won the Whitbread Novel Award for her 1979 book The Old Jest.

Bellaghy-born nobel laureate Seamus Heaney won the Whitbread Poetry Award in 1987, 1996 and in 1999. He also won Book of the Year for The Spirit Level in 1996 and for Beowulf in 1999.

Other previous winners of the Costa Awards include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes and Small Island by Andrea Levy.

The Costa Award judging panel is chaired by broadcaster Andrew Neil and includes David Morrissey, Elizabeth McGovern, Natasha Kaplinsky, Anneka Rice and Adele Parks.

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